Gabriel Jesus insisted he simply couldn’t continue at Man City and detailed the tactical tweak that has allowed him to thrive at Arsenal.
After selling Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January and failing to land top target Dusan Vlahovic, Arsenal always looked light on firepower for last season’s run-in. Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette were tasked with firing the Gunners to fourth spot, though two defeats from three to end the campaign saw Tottenham rise above their rivals.
Lacazette left Lyon as a free agent and Nketiah signed a new five-year deal. However, it always looked likely Arsenal would spend big on a new starting centre-forward.
Gabriel Jesus was the man they chased and the Brazilian signed from Man City on July 4.
Jesus cost £45m and just a few months into the new campaign, that already looks like a transfer masterstroke.
He has four goals and three assists from his first seven matches. The Gunners have won six and top the table heading into Saturday’s north London derby with Spurs.
Jesus has meant far more to Arsenal than just end product, however.
His time at Man City was mainly spent pushed out to the wing. On the occasions he did play centrally, City’s system meant his touches of the ball were few and far between.
Low numbers of touches isn’t something that is hampering Erling Haaland so far, though Jesus can contribute in other ways.
His pressing, hold-up play and link-up play have all caught the eye at the Emirates. Now, speaking to ESPN Brazil, Jesus explained why Arsenal’s system is far better suited to his game.
Guardiola tactics didn’t suit Gabriel Jesus
“The thing was the way [Guardiola] understands football and what he wanted,” said Jesus. “Then it was up to you to accept it or not.
“If you don’t accept it, ‘thank you’ and let’s go for another challenge. I accepted it for a while, but there came a moment when I said, ‘I want another thing for myself’.
“I thanked him, he understood, and we moved on.
“It is different here at Arsenal. The football is different – different players, different ways to play.
“At City, it was different. The striker didn’t touch the ball that much, you see this by watching the games.
“And, when it was time to touch the ball, it was not the striker, because [Guardiola] ended up putting a midfielder to come closer. OK, fine. So, I decided to change.”
Jesus relishing new-found freedom
“I talked a lot with [Mikel] Arteta about Arsenal’s style,” continued Jesus. “He knows me, I know him, I understood what he wanted from me.
“Now, I’m free on the pitch, playing football with a smile on my face and trying to do my best all the time.”
All eyes will be on north London come 12:30pm on Saturday.
The Gunners host Tottenham and will be looking for revenge for last season’s 3-0 drubbing that torpedoed their top four hopes.
Jesus has plenty of experience of playing in derbies, though is getting the impression this one means that little bit more.
“All the players are talking about the derby,” Jesus added. “It’s all about the derby. You’re going to see what a derby is. Derby, derby…'”
“I’ve had some experience of derbies, like when I played for Palmeiras, City and Brazil. So, I know what a derby is, but I never played one Arsenal versus Tottenham here.
“So, it will be my first and I hopefully to get the win, not only in my first but all the derbies that I will play.”